No takers for third of training awards

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The Independent Online
Over a third of the Government's flagship job training qualifications have never been completed by a single trainee, according to figures from the quango set up to promote them.

A further 50 out of the 878 existing National Vocational Qualifications have been achieved by just one person.

Among the nation's least popular NVQs are level two qualifications in pest control, maintaining fire-extinguishing equipment, spectator control and funeral service, none of which has yet been awarded. Certificates in amusements, carton manufacture and steel hot rolling have also yet to be gained.

The revelation that a total of 380 individual NVQs have been achieved by one person at the most casts doubt on government attempts to promote the qualifications as central to Britain's skills revolution.

Since their launch in 1990, pounds 106m of public money has been spent on developing and promoting NVQs, which are based on the principle of measuring candidates' competence in particular job occupations.

The qualifications are under review after being criticised last year in a report on the 100 most popular awards by the industrialist Sir Gordon Beaumont. The Beaumont Report found NVQs were jargon-ridden, bureaucratic and needed revision to become more user-friendly. Critics have suggested the qualifications, which can be gained in the workplace or in colleges and training centres, are based on narrow job-descriptions, reducing their appeal and relevance.

The unpopularity of a large number of NVQs contrasts with the great popularity of a few. Figures from the National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ) reveal that 23 awards have been completed by 5,000 or more trainees, while 91 have been gained by 1,000 or more trainees. The most popular NVQs cover business and service sector occupations including hairdressing, childcare and retail skills.

NCVQ yesterday said the figures on completed qualifications did not reflect the number of trainees who might be working towards them. That information is not collected centrally because the 120 NVQ awarding bodies do not agree on when to count a trainee as having embarked on a course.

A spokeswoman said there was a time lag between qualifications being accredited and the first person gaining a certificate while assessors were trained and other systems put in place.

Another factor was the high number of people opting to study only for sub-units of NVQs related to their particular occupation, rather than for the full qualification.

NCVQ admitted it was concerned at the low take-up where a qualification had been available for some time. The spokeswoman said: "We will consider carefully whether these NVQs should stay in the system when they come to be re-accredited and we will tighten our criteria for deciding whether there is a market for new ones."

NVQs make up a fraction of the 16,000 vocational qualifications available. As a result of criticism, the Government has ordered a big reduction in the list of qualifications eligible for public funding.